Note from Stacey: Today I am absolutely delighted to feature a piece written by weekly-contributor Laura Reeth’s talented son (who you may know as The Handsome Son), Mark Reeth Jr. Mark, thank you so much for sharing your wit and insight!
I’ve often been asked how I turned out so amazing. What factors led to the awe-inspiring young man I am today. What conditions during my youth contributed to the perfection that is The Handsome Son. While there are many reasons I’ve turned out this way, one of the most important has been my mom. Her guiding hand, often curled into an angry fist, has helped mold me from a boy into a man. It’s understandable, then, that you ask yourself how you too can create the perfect son. Well readers, you’ve come to the right place.
Here now I present to you the three steps to raising a perfect son. Fool proof, easy to read, and with examples from the life of this very author, prepare to have your notions of parenting shattered.
Step 1: Tabula Rasa
Lets be honest here ladies; you can read all the books, see all the movies, and listen to all your friends, but at the end of the first day you spend with your newborn son you will have realized that you know absolutely squat about raising boys. We’re loud, crazy, destructive, and that’s all before we can walk. And just wait until we figure out words; it’ll only get louder, crazier, and more destructive from there. So what’s a mom to do?
Let it all go. Realize that you know nothing, and open your mind to the possibility that this is a good thing. My mom, who shall henceforth be referred to as Mrs. Mom of My Dreams, loves to write on this very website about releasing all the stress in her life and acknowledging that she can’t control the world around her. If you can realize that the absolute last thing in the world you’ll be able to control is your son, then the world will be your oyster.
Step 2: Love. Lots of Love. And Anger. Lots of Anger.
But if you’re not supposed to try and control your male bundle of kinetic energy, how then do you raise a son as perfect as I? The Beatles would have you believe love is all you need, and that swaddling your baby boy in bundles of endless affection is the way to go. Don’t get me wrong; sons need love just as much as our mortal enemies, daughters/sisters do. But sometimes you need to go a bit farther…sometimes you need to Rage Against the Machine.
My advice? Don’t be afraid to bring the hammer down. I’m not saying that you should do this every time your son steps out of line because, well, he’s a boy and we do that more often than not. But the times when he needs a good smack upside the head, like when he’s beating up his younger sister or making crude toasts at Easter or painting the windows of an elderly woman’s car with phallic symbols by accident (I totally thought it belonged to one of my friends…whoops) then you have my permission to administer said smack. We get it, you only do it because you love us and don’t want us to end up in prison.
Step 3: Ugh…men! (Said with accompanying eye roll)
This brings me to my third, final, and perhaps most important point; remember that boys will be boys. Much like grown men cannot possibly hope to fathom the minds of the women around them, nearly all attempts by mothers to understand what goes on in the minds of growing boys will end in failure. You observe us more often than anyone else during our youth, yet you will never understand why we insist on wearing the clothes we wear, play the progressively more violent videogames we insist on playing, or get the tattoos we insist will help us pick up chicks.
And the sad fact is you never will. My mom likes to say I play things close to the vest (see her article from last week for an example), and I often get the feeling that she believes I do this because I don’t want her to know what I’m thinking at any given time. My reasons are much simpler than that, reasons psychologists and stand up comedians alike have commented on over the years; men don’t talk about their feelings.
The little boy who came crying to you when the other boys in second grade teased him for being pudgy has grown into a man, and as such he is now prone to the condition of the male species that renders us unable to articulate feelings. It’s true that my mom and I don’t talk nearly as much or as deeply as we used to, but this isn’t a reflection of my loving my mother any less than I once did. Instead it’s part of a natural progression as I’ve grown up and moved out, a progression that means I may not call home as often as I should.
So what’s a mom to do? Let it all go; realize that your son still loves you even if he isn’t a little boy, and that no matter how far from the nest he may wander he’ll always return when he needs you. Trust your ability to raise a good son, and just as importantly, trust his ability to live the lessons you’ve taught him. Besides, if he forgets to tell you about a new job or travel plans, you can always give him a smack upside the head the next time you see him.
And remember, just as boys will be boys, so too will I always be your son.
Mark Reeth Jr lives in Washington, DC, with the gal of his dreams. Finally finished with college, he no longer has to play the role of active, day-to-day son, and has moved into the role of fully-adult-man-who-also-